funding a dedicated server

Geocaching Australia governance issues
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ideology
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funding a dedicated server

Post by ideology » 30 January 08 10:54 am

gca started out about 5 years ago (see the gca history thread.) during that time, we've been providing web hosting at our cost.

however, gca is now getting larger and regularly bringing the server to its knees. as of today, gca has:
  • 29,557 caches
  • 769,644 logs
  • the compressed backup of the main cache and log database is currently 145MB
this month (we're not quite at the end, but close enough) the webstats were:
  • geocaching.com.au:
    * 11,814 unique visitors
    * 335,877 pageviews
    * 1,894,079 hits
    * 20GB bandwidth
  • forum.geocaching.com.au:
    * 3,662 unique visitors
    * 116,871 pageviews
    * 738,589 hots
    * 5GB bandwidth
so, it's time for gca to get its own dedicated server.

the first issue is how to fund it. we think it will cost something like US$200-300 per month to provide a server of appropriate capacity (just a guess at the moment, we'll do a bit more work to understand what is required. suffice to say, it needs much more than the average shared server such as dreamhost et al) for argument's sake, let's say US$250/month = about A$4000 per year.

options to fund it include:
  • i! continuing to fund it. we could claim it on tax and it would cost us $2k pa. we'd probably do that but for the fact that we haven't actually gone caching in years due to the car accident(s). very sad.
  • funding by a few key interested parties, eg 20 people put in $200 per annum to keep the server running. i! could possibly underwrite this for a couple of years, ie if not enough donations, we make up the difference as it would be great to get some capacity back on our server! this may raise issues with the idea of premium members or something. personally we want gca to continue to be free and open, so we'd like to see that everyone gets equal access irrespective if they help fund it or not. actually the funding is tiny compared to the hours of work that c@w, craigrat and riblit have put in to developing and maintaining the site
  • funding by lots of smaller donations, eg some kind of paypal thing for people to put in whatever they think fit. we think it would be sad for there to be threads begging for money though. there would also have to be some way of putting a cap on the funding so we don't get surpluses which then need to be looked after by someone. (it would be good to do it without having to go to the cost and hassle of forming a legal entity)
  • advertisements. we hate advertisements and in fact they were one of the key drivers for setting up gca in the first place. however, it's not really up to us any more!
questions:
  1. have we forgotten any options?
  2. what do you think of the options?

Crisp image
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Post by Crisp image » 30 January 08 12:25 pm

To keep it free for cachers I think advertising like GC.com is ok as long as there is no annoying popups and the advertising is relevant to caching.
If the site can support itself that would be great.
Regards
Crisp Image

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Papa Bear_Left
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Post by Papa Bear_Left » 30 January 08 2:03 pm

One option to look at, I guess, is scaling back the server-heavy features offered, which would make shared hosting more reasonable again.

I'm guessing that the stats are a big hit on resources, since the bandwidth and database size are nothing out of the ordinary (heck, even my cheap bog-standard GoDaddy hosting account could handle those numbers! I don't know enough about the page rendering load to guess at the hit from that, though.)

While they're nice to have, could we look at other options for the stats?

-Client-side processing software? (Higher bandwidth but lower CPU load. Maybe have a torrent of the database updated regularly to share that load?)
-Multiply shared server resources? Some sort of P2P scheme has been suggested by various people in the past as a model for geocaching. I'm sure there's others like me whose server stats usually hover in the near-zero bandwidth region! If different stats were mirrored on different sites, that could spread the load considerably.

Just some random thoughts from a non-server-savvy person...

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Post by Map Monkey » 30 January 08 2:33 pm

I like the clean look of the site without any advertisements whatsoever, so the option of combining two or three options ie. ads OR donation/subscription etc.

I wouldn't think that (google etc) advertisments would generate enough income to offset all costs in any case. :?

It would be nice to see at least one site on the internet without ads. :P

mm

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Post by ian-and-penny » 30 January 08 2:51 pm

I'm all for a user pays system, but as I very very rarely visit geocaching.com.au (because I'm not interested in GCA caches, stats or logging my finds through there) I would not like to be asked to fund that part of the site/server.

On the other hand, I visit the forum quite regularly and get quite a lot of enjoyment from there.

So, as a suggestion, would it be an acceptable compromise if you were to split off the geocaching.com.au part to an external server and introduce some sort of (user pays) premium membership - while maintaining the forum as a freebie?

Regards

Ian

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listmaker
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Post by listmaker » 30 January 08 2:54 pm

I will no doubt be burnt alive for this, but .... could enough funds be raised by the sale of a limited edition, annual, GCA geocoin? A margin could be added to the price of each coin, to support GCA.

Obviously, there would need to be sufficient demand, even if it was minted on a pre-pay order only basis, but there does seem to be a lot of interest in coins these days.

The GCA coin would probably have to be made available on the GC forums as well, to ensure that at least 200, or whatever the minimum sale number required would be, were sold.

They did this on the Podcacher podcast forums, selling the coins for around $30.

I think it's a good annual fund-raiser, without making people feel compelled to participate.
Last edited by listmaker on 31 January 08 9:56 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Jardry
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Post by Jardry » 30 January 08 2:59 pm

No doubt advertising and premium membership fees is what sustains GC.com to a large extent, but it is a legal entity.

The history of GC.com is also relevant in that geocaching was to be a community activity not "owned" by any one person. Unfortunately Groundspeak owns "geocaching.com" and are at liberty to do what they wish with the domain. Heaven forbid if they fell over at any time.

Whilst having some non legal entity would seem ideal, it has inherent dangers. Creating an association isn't that complicated and "meetings" can be conducted on-line as could elections for office bearers. The office bearers can then outsoure the IT specifics to ideology or whomever they wish. BUT at the end of the day the association owns "geocaching.com.au", not any individuals.

We have 5,000 registered users, no doubt someone can check as to how many are active users. Assuming only 20% are active, that's 1,000 users who if they became members with an annual membership fee of $5 would be able to support the ongoing running of the webiste.

Others could still access the website, but won't be able to vote for office bearers and be involved, all be it in a small way, in the future development of the association. All there would eb would be a small area for "Members Only" information (ie voting, regulations, etc.)

This is after all a semi-professional activity and as much as we want to keep it informal, there always needs to be some ground rules for particpation.

Sorry if this offends purists who believe a totally unrestrictive process can continue to maintain the website.

Regards


Jardry

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Mr Router
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Post by Mr Router » 30 January 08 4:07 pm

We also like the look of ad free :D so the only real answer for all fairness is to have an annual subscription.

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Post by Team Piggy » 30 January 08 4:09 pm

I dont really mind advertising banners if they help pay the way.

How about "premium membership" 5-20 bucks a year? gets no banners, GCA caches etc ? Eg a clean page...
Best of both worlds then, income from memberships and also income from banners..

I think a donation button (paypal etc) is a great idea as well and should probably be instated ASAP (as in now) whilst discussions are taking place.
Last edited by Team Piggy on 30 January 08 4:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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psychokat
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Post by psychokat » 30 January 08 4:10 pm

I like the donation idea. Instead of of worring about a surplus, remember the old fundraising signs in front of schools and hospitals that use to say when the required amount was reached. That way people who want to donate can and when the the limit is reached that's the end of it.

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Postman Pat
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Post by Postman Pat » 30 January 08 4:25 pm

psychokat wrote:I like the donation idea. Instead of of worring about a surplus, remember the old fundraising signs in front of schools and hospitals that use to say when the required amount was reached. That way people who want to donate can and when the the limit is reached that's the end of it.
I like this idea as well.An alternative is that any excess funds be held over for the next year or used to upgrade the service and/or used in some form to make the coders / Fairies lives easier :lol:

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Post by diesel69 » 30 January 08 5:58 pm

Postman Pat wrote:
psychokat wrote:I like the donation idea. Instead of of worring about a surplus, remember the old fundraising signs in front of schools and hospitals that use to say when the required amount was reached. That way people who want to donate can and when the the limit is reached that's the end of it.
I like this idea as well.An alternative is that any excess funds be held over for the next year or used to upgrade the service and/or used in some form to make the coders / Fairies lives easier :lol:
Sounds good to me, I'm more than happy to throw in $1 a week to cover the amusement and information I get from the forums IF it keeps the ads off my screen.

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Post by Richary » 30 January 08 8:31 pm

While I don't mind the idea of paying a bit to support the information I can get off the site, and of course the biggest part being the forums - the problem with having a "donate" paypal button is would the Tax Office then decide that is income for whoever's account it goes into? And could that person then declare the costs of running the server against that? I would suggest that if a "legal entity"/association isn't formed then tax advice would be appropriate.<p>

So I vote for creating an association. The benefits of membership to be decided by a group discussion on what bonuses people get. Perhaps advertising (which could be done legally then), with the option of members not getting the ads. Non members get the ads with an "opt-out of ads by joining" message.

As for creating an association, I don't think we need to be too worried about this. Yes any association needs rules. And some of those rules are laid down by law - I'm thinking of the radio club I am in (and back on the Committee now I have moved back to Sydney). However those mandatory rules don't relate to things like what members can and can't do in the hobby, they refer to things like quorums for meetings (which can be even 5-10 people, hey just have an event); a few statutory positions like President, Treasurer, Secretary; the need for an Annual General Meeting and so on.<p>

Any other rules are totally up to the association, so we don't have to tell people how to play the game.<p>

Legal advice would be required to set up an association, but I am sure someone in this group must be a lawyer and could draw up a basic constitution. It simply needs to define in broad terms what the purpose of the group is, the mandatory rules and so on. As a non profit organisation costs are quite low for registration, you need to send a copy of the annual financial statement (up to you if it is formally audited or not) and AGM minutes to the Office of Business Affairs or whatever in the state it is incorporated in and that is pretty much it.<p>

The radio club has about 150 members with annual subs of around $40 per year. That supports printing a 20-32 page A4 magazine each month and posting to all the members. Plus the mandatory overheads such as insurance. So you can see that the annual income versus costs does not have to be huge, especially as the postage/printing costs are non existent for what we want to do. <p>

If anyone wants more info let me know and I can find out some more from the Club Secretary. We would just need to decide which state it is to be incorporated in (that doesn't limit committee people to that state - for example the radio club is incorporated in Victoria yet all current committee positions are held by people in NSW), set up a bank account with a few signatories and hey presto. <p>

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Post by CraigRat » 30 January 08 9:00 pm

Interesting ideas there richary, I was wondering what we'd have to do if we collected any donations etc....

(The following is only my opinion, and does not represent any of the other interested parties)

One thing I would like people to consider is that if any entity that needs to be set up it should be purely for the running of the website, not a 'Australian Geocaching Association' (not that anyone has suggested it in this thread yet....just thought I'd try and nip it in the bud)

I say this for 2 reasons:
1) Our immediate problem is getting $$ to run the site as we would like, without impacting on i!'s resources, and that is our immediate (and only) priority right now.
2) The philosophy maintained by those who look after the site do not necessarily run in-line with popular opinion on how things should be done. 'Free and Open' isn't something we just say for fun. 'Pay for Play' or 'Pay for data' should not be considered.

Theres more, but I'll save it :lol:

Once again : (The above is only my opinion, and does not represent any of the other interested parties)
Keep the ideas flowing!
Last edited by CraigRat on 30 January 08 9:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Cached
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Post by Cached » 30 January 08 9:00 pm

I love the paypal idea, maybe the $$ could go through geocaching tasmania as they are incorporated.

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